COVID-19 and Bangladesh – Adapting to the New Normal

Publish: 5:43 PM, June 2, 2020 | Update: 4:24:PM, June 6, 2020

Dr P R Datta FCIM, FCMI,   Mark T. Jones LL.M, FCILN

One thing that has been learnt about the coronavirus is that anyone can catch it and that anyone can spread it. In a direct response to the current Pandemic social distancing measures have been introduced around the world. Entire countries and populations are having to endure lockdowns that are proving enormously costly economically and socially. These are indeed strange and worrying times. Governments are having to respond as never before, and there is a real need for transparency, as well as economic packages designed to support citizens in a time of very real hardship. COVID-19 is an invisible enemy that threatens us all and requires a united and determined response to defeat it. Whilst there are legitimate reasons to be concerned there are also signs of human ingenuity and kindness, and thus we must endeavour to focus on the positives and stay calm in the face of this global challenge.

Bangladesh is no stranger to adversity; it could be rightly said that it was born out of hardship and oppression. The people are remarkably resilient and over the years they have learnt to adapt and often thrive. The Coronavirus is testing us all and if we let it can erode our morale, or do the opposite, bring out an inner determination that will help us defeat it. We know that until there is a vaccine, we all need to take sensible precautions, to socially distance and focus on hygiene as never before. Sadly, some will die of COVID-19, but others will survive. The question is, what are we going to do to help Bangladesh come through this?

Firstly, we need to keep calm, for by doing so we are more likely to act responsibly. It is vital that we keep travel and human interaction to a minimum. In a time of crisis like this there is a requirement to do things differently, but with continued reverence. Some rightfully ask what it is we can do for others, or do we look upon them with suspicion or do we think of practical ways to support and reach out? Even in these trying times we can support others with an act of kindness, with practical help or with charity. Some are helping buy provisions for the sick, elderly, and vulnerable, others are telephoning a person who is isolated to check up on them, or to have a friendly chat. Others are making known their appreciation for healthcare workers and those on the frontline. Some young people are using the power of the internet to set up online groups aimed at giving help to others. Strangers are becoming friends, and great things being done that lift the spirits. There is a growing appreciation that we are all in this together and so we must all play our part and help each other as best we can. If someone falls on hard times let do what we can to help. If some collapses in the street do, we panic and rush away, do we stop and stare from a distance and do nothing, or do we contact the authorities and try to be of some assistance? What we want done if we were in that situation? It is a challenge to each and every one of us to do the right thing.

At times like this there is fear, rumour, half-truths and sadly lies and deception. There are some who will seek to exploit COVID-19 to trick and defraud others. Some will spread false stories; others will prey on the fears and anxieties of others. There are even those who will peddle false cures. Thankfully, they are a tiny minority, but we must be alert to such activity. The internet is alive with Fake news and those who are out to make mischief. So how are we going to respond to such activity? We must work hard to act responsibly, to not hoard foodstuffs and other essential supplies. We should give careful thought to what we post online, or that we pass on to others. As tempting as it is, we should try our level best not to pass on gossip, let us instead look for the best in others, whether they be family, friends, neighbours, or strangers. A united society is one that is better able to tackle a common enemy, be under no illusion that is precisely what COVID-19 is.

So, what about the Lockdown? How are we going to get through it? Many companies and individuals are genuinely and rightfully fearful. Things are proving tough, very tough. Some people’s incomes have dried up altogether, others are fearing the loss of jobs and are filled with uncertainty. Naturally, people look to the Government for support, not just in doles of rice, but in other practical measures aimed at alleviating suffering. Unfortunately, there is anecdotal evidence of some officials exploiting the situation by literally robbing the poor and syphoning off rice to sell off at hugely inflated prices; they and others seeking to exploit the situation are little better than collaborators with the Coronavirus and are worthy of nothing but contempt and of being on the receiving end of the full force of the law. On a positive note other are using the present circumstances to learn new skills, take free courses online, or to master a musical instrument or read holy books and thus grow in wisdom and understanding.

As things stand any return to normality will be gradual and take some considerable time. We all need to adapt to a new normal, that for a time might involve face masks and greater social distancing. Already education providers are beginning to appreciate the urgency of offering much more material and teaching online, and thus public and private providers must ensure that students/pupils are helped to access such learning resources. It is imperative that the Government allocate additional resources to support online learning for all. Let us see this situation as an opportunity to innovate and upskill. It is not all doom and gloom. Maybe, if we only knew it, we are being given an opportunity to recalibrate, one that allows the country and indeed the world to find an equilibrium that is more in tune with nature and our spiritual selves.
Let us ask ourselves the following questions:

What can I do to better myself?
How might I help my family and friends at this time?
What can I do to show my appreciation of healthcare workers and frontline staff?
What am I doing to help Bangladesh get through this emergency?
Who can I help today?
Be in no doubt, that this situation will continue to test us. It is going to be tough and will be mentally wearing. Yes, we will all have our low points, and regrettably some will die because of the Coronavirus. It is important that we all do what we can to support the sick and the bereaved. There will be lessons to learn, and after this is all over the Government and others will be required to account for the quality of their response. But for the time being let us stay positive and purposeful. For with determination we can win through and maybe, just maybe we will come out of it as a better, stronger, and more united people.

The Writers are Executive Chair, Centre for Business & Economic Research (CBER), UK
Editor-in-Chief – International Journal of Higher Education Management